Pick of the Week

10.29.2008 – Battlefields: The Night Witches #1

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145
Pulls
Avg Rating: 4.3
iFanboy Community Pick of the Week Percentage: 2.4%
 
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Size: pages
Price: 3.50

I’ve read a lot of comic books.  I’ve read a lot of books. I’ve seen a lot of movies.  I’ve watched a lot of television shows.  

What I’m trying to say is that I’ve consumed a lot of media.

As a result of my rabid media consumption, it’s not often that I find myself reading a completely new story about a totally new subject matter.  This is most especially in comic books.  Battlefields: The Night Witches #1 by Garth Ennis and Russ Braun has accomplished just that.

Garth Ennis loves war comics.  As he has said on many occasions, it is his favorite thing to write.  They are his passion.  He wrote a whole series of them for Vertigo many years ago called War Stories.  They were some of the best comics Ennis has ever written (and we’re talking about a guy who has written some genuine modern classics), and some of the lowest selling.  Undaunted, Ennis has also managed to slip in a few war mini-series here and there as he did with Fury and War is Hell: First Flight of The Phantom Eagle at Marvel.  And while those two minis were really good, I had always hoped that he would get back to his War Stories series.

And now he has.

Even though he is not writing them for Vertigo, and though they are no longer branded War Stories books, Garth Ennis recently signed on with Dynamite to write a series of war mini-series – now under the name of Battlefields –  and The Night Witches is the first one out of the gate.

The Night Witches is based on an actual bombing regiment from the Second World War.  In desperate need of more soldiers and in an effort to promote the Communist ideal of true societal equality, the Soviet army created a regiment of female bomber pilots.  They were dubbed “The Night Witches” by the German soldiers because their bombing runs were strictly nighttime affairs.

The arrival of the first regiment of female bomber pilots to their base is where we come in with Battlefields: The Night Witches #1, and as you might imagine, these new pilots are not welcomed with open arms.  Their commanding officer can barely spit out his required welcoming speech, the male pilots leer at them from afar, they are housed in an old cattle barn, and they are given propeller planes for their missions that might as well be antiques.  At this point you would think that morale would be quite low among the (as yet undubbed) Night Witches, but you would be wrong.  They are happy to finally begin their missions and to fight for their country and for the Communist ideal.  Right from the beginning of this issue I found myself admiring these pilots because their attitude in the face of adversity was so inspiring.  They also prove themselves to be full of ingenuity as they deal with the limitations of their planes.  The full scope of which is only hinted at in this first issue and will no doubt come into play next month.

But it’s not all heroism and plucky go-getterism, no.  This is a Garth Ennis war comic.  The horrors of war are on full display here.  Parallel to the introduction of The Night Witches is the story of a squad of German soldiers invading Russia and all the shooting and close quarters stabbing and bludgeoning that something like that entails.  It’s bloody and it is at times gruesome, but that’s war and Ennis doesn’t pull any punches about that aspect.

The same goes for The Night Witches’ first bombing run.  Their mission goes about as well as a bunch of propeller planes running a surprise bombing run might go.  The Germans hear them coming from miles away and the Russian planes run right into an ambush in the form of a barrage of blinding spotlights and anti-aircraft cannons.  One plane is destroyed, on escapes and returns to base, and one plane crashes near the German army.  And that’s when the full weight of the implications of female bomber pilots in World War II comes crashing down on the reader, and possibly on the pilots themselves.

Russ Braun’s art reminds me a lot of frequent (and current) Garth Ennis collaborator Darrick Robertson.  It has that same realistic-with-a-dash-of-cartoony quality that works really well in a story like that that has a lot of emoting from the characters alongside some big action scenes.

I have read a lot of books on World War II and I have watched a lot of the documentaries, but I have never heard of The Night Witches before.  It’s a fascinating corner of the war that I can’t wait for Garth Ennis to explore in this three part mini-series.

I’m so happy to have Garth Ennis’ war comics back.  There is so much passion in these pages that you tell where his writer’s heart lies.  These are good stories; these are important stories.  I only hope that these Dynamite minis are successful enough that he can write as many as he wants.

Conor Kilpatrick
Zoya’s not joking.
conor@ifanboy.com

Comments

  1. Excellent choice, Conor!

  2. Wow! Where did this come from? lol

    I mean I was ready to do a joke about the Red Lanterns one shot cause you proclaimed it was your POTW in advance in the last podcast but damn, this is the definition of ‘left field’.

    Really really great review Conor, seriously. I’ve read a lot of reviews in my time but none have shown the intensity and the love of a comic like you just did. No bitching about ‘oh my LCS didnt have this’ (this time it did, foolishly now didnt get it), nothing about why this should be pick and not that, no bitching from me this week. This review has totally made me love Ennis and his war stories again and I wish I picked this up at my LCS!

    Sure my pick this week was Ultimate Spider-Man Annual #3 but if I read this I’m sure it would’ve been my pick as well. I love war stories and Ennis is terrific at writing them, makes me wish he could do a show on WWII sometimes. Cant wait for the podcast.

    -This rant has been endorsed by the Burger King King (Vote Nov. 4th)

  3. i thought u would have gone with the geoff johns month sweep…

  4. AW!  I wanted Rage of the Red Lanterns to win!  Come on, Kitty of Death is full of win!!!  You’re messing with Geoff Johns month here!

  5. Having chatted with Ron about the Geoff Johns sweep, I’m completely caught off-guard. I skipped this in lieu of the eventual trade, but now I’m wishing I hadn’t.

  6. In all fairness, October 1st was Top Ten so he wouldn’t precisely have "swept" the month.

  7. yay, I picked this too!

  8. Why whenever an indie book comes out that garners the pick of the week does my store not stock it. Hiss.

  9. Wow, thought it would have been Rage one shot or Joker GN.

  10. come on – a garth ennis war book? this is NOT a shock, people – this is right in Conor’s wheelhouse! i enjoyed red lanterns, but didn’t think it was good enough to be a guaranteed PoW. sounds like this was a cool book – and that is a sweet cover, too!

  11. Hell yeah!

  12. great pick

  13. I almost picked this up, and now I’m sorry I did’nt.

  14. I dont know if this is an error on your part conor but I just noticed:

    Publisher: COMICS

    I wasnt aware this was a comic book….wait! is this a comic website? 🙂

  15. Ended up getting this on impulse, can’t wait to get home and read it.

  16. Nice pick, I had this waiting for me in my box @ my LCS. I had completely forgotten about this comic.  Boy am I glad I put it on my pull list way back when,  after Ennis’ Crossed a few weeks ago, I wouldn’t have picked this up from the racks.

  17. Why wasn’t guerillas #2 on the pull list this week?

  18. I didn’t even see this at my shop…sold out or ….never ordered hmmmmm?

  19. I picked 1985 as my POTW…just because the kid got to say those famous two words.  Awesome.

  20. Awesome book.  Was stunned when we got to witness the fate of the ladies that crashed.

     

    Good times. 

  21. Not a book that was on my radar (no pun intended), but I now feel compelled to read it based on that review.

    Bravo!

  22. Despite the marked different reception Ennis’ spectrum of works receives, his war stories are always a hit.  Always well researched, and always bringing lesser known war facts to light (CAM ships!)

  23. Although I praise Ennis for his war stories, his Punisher work is still my favorite stuff he’s ever done. I mean if you think about it, a lot of his Punisher MAX stories had the military and war aspects to it….Plus his Punisher: Born was basically a Vietnam tale with Frank Castle in it. I never realised how perfect Ennis is at war stories though, again I wish he could somehow do a TV special on WWII or something cause I would watch that in a heartbeat.

  24. Best book I’ve read this week– and one of the best Marvel Comics I’ve read in a long, long time– was Thor #11.

    Oh, and Red Lanterns was pretty good, too.

    And, what was up with the art on the President in Superman…? That was awful.

  25. @Jim, I was pretty sure George Bush was NOT the president in the DCU, but he sure was here. That right there will make the eventual collection feel dated.

  26. I believe W won the 2004 election in the DCU after the Luthor/Ross administration.

  27. After reading the Mignola drawn Hellboy, I can’t see how that wasn’t pick of the week.  It’s worth nothing, however, that I didn’t read this.

     

    But man, Hellboy.  So freakin’ good. 

  28. @Neb: I’m not saying Hellboy wasnt good this week….but I just didnt see how it was POTW material.

    Sure seeing Mignola back on art was refreshing but it wasnt the best one-shot in the world. If it was a Crooked Man issue with him on art, then that would be another thing.

  29. @TheNextChampion~  I thought it had everything that’s classic Hellboy.  Great Mignola art, some witchcrafty craziness, Hellboy being hilariously nonchalant, and then booming something to death.  It was 22 pages of pure Hellboy bliss.

  30. @Neb: I agree with you, I mean there was overall nothing wrong with the issue. But when I put it up against USM Annual, or Thor, or even Incredible Herc….it didnt have that much more of a ‘wow’ factor to make it my pick. But I still loved it as much as you did.

  31. This was decent if a bit by-the-numbers

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